There is a saying I believe: Opinions are like a$$holes…everybody has one. Over the past year that saying has never rung truer. There is some cosmic force that once you become a parent you become an open target to any and all advice, whether you want it or not. It comes from those you know and those you don’t. It meanders its way into your daily life from your loved ones, strangers, good friends, and acquaintances. EVERYONE has advice on how to be a better parent, and often they have a good way of making you feel like a terrible failure to your child. Don’t get me wrong, I would be a sobbing pile of bones had I not had help along the way from those I truly trust, but for the most part this has me thinking…is our unsolicited advice ever appropriate?
I am often finding parallels between being a yoga teacher and being a mother. In both cases I am helping to shape someone’s life in a manner that cannot be taken lightly. My daughter has no choice…she is stuck with me…forever. I have the world’s greatest task in molding a small tiny human into (fingers crossed) a thoughtful, loving, productive, component of this universe. However, my students come to me because they trust me. They trust that once they walk through those doors I am going to not only move their body, but I am going to get into their inner workings and give them some sense of mental clarity. The reality of being a yoga teacher is that each of my students become my best friend, my patient, my child, my project, etc. With minimal credentials (does 2 semesters of college Psychology count?) I am transformed into part-time therapist every time you hit your mat. However, as I am fuming over the millionth time someone has told me that I spoil my baby by holding her too much, I can’t help but wonder: am I overstepping my bounds as a teacher by offering insight and advice to my students??
As I have been reflecting on getting and giving advice I have compiled a short list of to dos:
1. Do offer your opinions to those who ask. Please allow them actually ask you and avoid “reading between the lines”. Just because someone tells you they are having a hard time with XYZ, does not always mean they are asking you to interject.
2. Don’t use words like “should” or “must”. These do not carry the connotation of offering advice, instead they illicit an action that a person needs to take, and when inevitably they do not take that action, you will be frustrated.
3. Do take advice with a grain of salt. If my mother tells me something, I will most likely listen…she knows me too well. If some random broad with 4 screaming kids at Target tells me something, I’ll pass. If your yoga teacher offers it up…meditate on it in savasana.
4. Don’t forget your authentic self. Sometimes we get so caught up in doing what others want us to do we completely forget that we have a brain of our own. Use it.
5. Do smile politely and say thanks, but no thanks when you get terrible advice. If someone is always offering you their opinion, and you don’t want /need it, let them know that although you appreciate their concern, you will keep on keepin’ on without that tidbit.
Whether you are a parent, a teacher, a student, or just alive…take time to familiarize yourself with this completely unsolicited advice on how to give and receive advice.
Michelle Young, E-RYT and PRYT is a yoga teacher, business owner, mother, and lover of life. She is also part of the My Yoga Scene family, co-editing and blogging about her love of yoga and the journey of motherhood. She has been teaching in the Atlanta area since 2008 in the disciplines of Hot, Vinyasa, Hatha, and Prenatal yoga. Michelle owns and teaches at Lime Tree Yoga in the Old Fourth Ward, and is the private instructor for the Atlanta Hawks. She combines her love of yoga and travel by leading yoga retreats around the globe. You can reach Michelle at email@example.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org